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Healer’s Inheritance- Chapter 9 -The Road to Abbeyford

Started by Laurna, December 16, 2014, 03:20:02 AM

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Previous Chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1336.0.html

985, December 29
Lendour River, near Abbeyford
Duchy Haldane

On the fourth morning out of Cynfyn, rain blurred the detail of the rich farmlands along the road. Broken forests outlined each clearing, separating the parcels from one another. Some clearings held sheep that munched on stubble from the previous year's crops. Others lay fallow waiting to be harrowed. Nearly every open field had a cottage in a corner where smoke billowed above the rooflines and lights glittered through the shuttered casements. The travelers longed to take refuge from the rain, but no one complained. If each person dreamt of a favored, dry place, then they kept it to themselves so as not to be the first to admit the weather was misery. At an even pace the horses continued on. As a whole, the party was relieved when the road finally turned west to follow the Lendour River; they were nearing their midpoint destination and a place where they hoped to make camp. The road near the river was thick with puddles of mud, yet it appeared free of recent hoof prints or wagon wheel grooves. Few had come this way since the last storm or even the one before that. There was no logic to it, as this was the most direct route between Corwyn and Rhemuth, unless one chose to travel west to the coast at Nyford.

At mid-morning, the travelers out of Cynfyn came upon a sloping bank leading to the river's edge. The Knight Captain nodded his greeting to his lieutenant who had proven good to his word. Sir Dillon stood on the deck of the ferry, which was properly tied to a piling on the north bank.

"It would be my honor to welcome you to Abbeyford," Dillon called over the steady sound of rain drumming on the river's surface.

"We will be right glad to arrive on the south side of this river.  I trust you know a safe place to set up camp; a place not too muddy, where the women's feet can stay dry?" Sir Washburn called back.

"Aye, we've a good knoll southeast of town," his lieutenant replied. Then in jest, he held out his hand, palm up, like he had only just noticed the rain. "This weather isn't to your liking, my lord? It is to mine. It has kept the locals in their homes and allowed me to offer a deal with this fine man." Dillon gestured toward the man hunched over the ropes which strained in the cleats as the barge knocked back and forth against the current.

"Good day to you, master helmsman," Wash acknowledged the ferryman. "My party and I seek your ferry to get us safely across. Will you give us permission to board? I have coin to pay for your efforts."

"So your man has brokered with me," the ferryman replied. He lifted his head to reveal a weathered face under an oiled hat that kept the rain at bay. "I've been promised ten coin and the strength of your men to use the winches to pull us across. Your man and I could handle the barge while empty, but loaded...?  It will require two strong men as I'll be needed at the tiller." He pointed to the toothed wheel that would pull the barge along the rope stretched over the width of the river. "Curse the abbey for putting the fear of God in my workmen; they won't come near the ferry until it's allowed. If you have the coin, then that's the fee, otherwise you best keep riding west to Nyford."

"You've made this deal with my man, and I will back it. His agreement is mine. Just don't cheat me, and I promise I won't cheat you, I stand by my reputation." Wash looked the man straight in the eye. The ferryman shied back. The Knight Captain's honest reputation was well known, but so was the hearsay about his Deryni bloodline. Wash ignored the ferryman's discomfort. "I presume it will take three trips to get my party across."

"The barge can carry that many, if your horses remain calm," the ferryman said, his voice revealing some doubt.

"I'll manage the horses, there will be no need for concern," Wash replied, not mentioning the Deryni talent of handling animals. The ferryman nodded knowingly and made no further reply. Can he be trusted? Wash asked privately of Dillon.

We're paying him three times his normal fee, and I have detected no lies in the multitude of questions he answered for me. Nevertheless, keep a wary eye on him.

Wash assigned two men to the wheel, and then motioned half the Tralian nobles off their mounts. Lord Kyriell handled five horses, including Lady Elzia's, Lady Cecilia's and his own. Washburn touched the muzzles of all these animals as they were led up the ramp onto the wooden deck, making pretense that he was the only Deryni here. In truth, however, he only needed his energies for a few of the horses, as Jathurn and Dillon inconspicuously lent their talent to calm most of them. Nothing more than a nicker and a flick of the tail came from the animals as they boarded. The Knight Captain indicated that Dillon should remain on the north shore, and then stepped on the deck with a serious eye on the old man in the large hat. 

Paying the knight no more mind, the ferryman busied himself with their departure. He hoisted the end of the ramp off the bank, and he barked his orders to the two guards who took up positions on the winch that would turn the toothed wheel. Getting the coordination to turn the wheel smoothly was no easy trick. Water lapped against the flat hull, splashing over the boots of those at the front.

"You want us all flipped into the current? You imbeciles! Pay attention to what you're doing!" the ferryman demanded. The men took more care to pull the wheel evenly.  When they reached the south bank there was a sigh of relief. This was a shallow part of the river in the dry season, but deep enough to drown in at this time of year.

A third of the travelers gratefully disembarked. Wash appointed one man to return with him. He and the Lendour guard turned the winch to get the barge back north. The second group, led by Dillon, completed the Tralian contingent and several of the Lendouri armsmen.  Wash stayed behind. It wasn't too long before the ferry returned to make the last crossing. As the only Deryni remaining, this time Wash truly did calm each of the remaining horses as they were led up the ramp, including the pair of rounceys that pulled their wagon filled with their belongings and gear. Glad that he hadn't needed to use that much energy on the two prior crossings, Wash banished the small bit of fatigue that this crossing caused. He looked up to see the ferryman giving him a stern look, and then the old man made the sign of the cross against the use of magic.

"Would you rather have a boatload of fractious warhorses?" Wash inquired of the ferryman. "I'm sure you've dealt with a few of those in your day."

"Aye, my lord, and watched men drown when their steeds get rebellious. Times aplenty when a fearful horse slips off the deck taking many a man with him into the river. The horse usually finds the bank and climbs from the icy water, but the men never do. The current here is deadly and will drag a clothed man to his doom. The bodies do find the shoreline after a day or two." The old man said this with a wry grin as he eyed each of the Lendouri armsmen who held tight to the reins of their mounts. "Happens every year." Then the old man laughed for best effect. In turn, the men looked back to their Knight Captain for reassurance.

Wash only laughed. "Nasty business, that. Hard to get paid when your customers don't reach the far shore." He reached into his belt and tossed a heavy coin purse from hand to hand.

"Indeed. Sometimes the entertainment is worth the price." At his words, a heavy wind blew up the river and the barge strained into the ropes, water lapped over the deck. The men stood tense, but the horses neither flicked their ears nor their tail.

"As you see, Lendour horses are a stock above the rest. Well trained and versatile in any situation. Yours is not the first ferry they have ever been on. Nor will it be their last," Wash said with the barest hint of threat.

"Aye, animals of quality, that I can see. 'Tis a shrewd commander who leads them as well."

They were more than halfway across the river with the wind continuing its gusts. The barge held to the ropes, but it was the clouds above that blew about. A ray of sun gleamed through the billowing cloud bank. The sun beam shimmered across the river's surface and then increased in size. As the light shone against the remaining drizzle, a myriad of refracted colors arced over the water, giving promise of an end to the storm. The ferryman pointed out the sight, even as he eyed the nobleman's purse. Taking the sun beam as a sign from the heavens, the old helmsman let slip a smile that exposed his change of attitude. "Perhaps your coming is favored after all," he commented to the nobleman. "That coin in your purse is well needed. My family grows hungry from the lack of business. I've worked hard all my life, earning an honest wage. Abbot Darby doesn't like your kind, neither much do I, but his decrees are out of spite and greed. They threaten the welfare of my family. The food promised by the monastery has not come to pass. That's why I'm here against the abbot's decree. That there tells me, I'm doing the right thing." The man nodded at the rainbow with its colors deepening in the light of the breaking sun.

"Then, I can count on you to keep the ferry open? With honest payment to ensure a safe crossing? Soon there will be wagons loaded in need of finding the north road."

"Aye, I'll see to it. Although, it'd be easier if the decrees were lifted. Your men have strong arms, but it takes a bit of skill to handle this here barge when she's low in the waterline with heavy wagons. I need my own laborers for that."

"If I had a certain dispatch from the capital, I could do as you ask," Wash murmured almost to himself but loud enough to hear. "The way that it stands, getting what you ask may be a problem," Wash replied louder. Already he was planning how best to confront the abbot, and if need be, break through the barricade that was purposely in place to stop someone from doing just that.

"Dispatch, you say? I heard talk of a rider from Rhemuth this morning when I passed the main square." The ferryman cocked his head at the Knight Captain, waiting to see if his story would be of interest to the noble.

Wash turned to the old man almost instantly. "Tell me...!"

"In the past day or two, I heard tell of guards hiding in the ditches along the road west out of town. The town folk had joked about them lying out there in the rain. Seems this morning, they ambushed a lone rider. I overheard a guard telling the magistrate they'd surrounded the man with swords drawn; he'd held up a torn bit of cloth which looked to have the partial insignia of Rhemuth upon it. The guard then told how the man had fought back, wounding one of them and taking a wound himself before escaping."

As the ferryman spoke the Knight Captain's anger began to build. In the first place, just how had the Abbot gotten this news that a royal courier was in route? During the contact from the night before, Dillon had said such a rumor was already passing through the town. To retaliate, the magistrate had given the ruse of coastal raiders pillaging inland so as to rile the town folk, giving them cause to let the abbey confiscate all the goods in town. Wash knew that the only way for news to travel faster than horseback required a trained Deryni and one other, either Deryni or properly trained human, to receive that contact. It sickened Washburn to think that the men who hated Deryni the most gained knowledge and power by using and often abusing Deryni to act against their own kind.

"...Next thing, I see the magistrate rousting up his men. He was yelling that if they wanted their pay, then they had better catch this lone rider. For if he was the bearer of a dispatch from Rhemuth, the abbot desperately wanted that dispatch in his possession. I had no desire to get caught in that, so I left the square heading home. That's when your man confronted me and persuaded me to open the ferry. I figured with the rain and all the magistrate's men riding out, no one was around to notice us working this barge."

Washburn barely heard the ferryman's last words. He'd stepped closer to the old man and had begun to reach out to him, desperate to Mind-See exactly what the man had witnessed. It was with a sudden self-admonishment that he stopped and stepped back; that kind of magic would cause needless anxiety in his men who watched, not to say anything about the morality of such an act, no matter how benign Washburn's touch would be. It was one thing to calm horses, but to have a rapport with an unconsenting human was considered abuse of power. And rightly so, Wash inwardly chastised. Angry with himself, the Deryni lord clenched his fists, and then forced an outward calmness as he mundanely asked for more information. "When did you say this was? Do you know which way they went?"

"They were pointing south... it was about Tierce," the old man said, sensing the agitation that his news brought to the Lendour knight, but not knowing the full reason why. "Are you thinking that this lone rider carries something that will force the abbot to reopen the road? Could be, could be. I would be worried for the man's life... it was Doggin who spearheaded the mob that chased the lone rider. He is a mean bastard, he is."

"They took the road, heading south?"


Wash tossed the man the coin purse he'd been holding, which contained payment plus a bit more. "I thank you for your news. You will have your ferry freely open and your workmen after all, as soon as I clear up this mess." He studied the ferryman closely for a moment, knowing the man was quite pleased to be paid.

The old man grinned at the weight of the bag before hiding it in his clothes. "Thank you, my lord," he replied with a bow. "I do believe that you will."

The Knight Captain strode tensely off the barge the moment the ramp was lowered. He waved to Robby for his destrier. As the sorrel was brought to him, he began barking orders to Sir Dillon to take the contingent to the hill southeast of town, to make camp there, and guard it well. As he mounted up, he called two of his men to his side while calling out to the rest of his party, "We're going hunting! With a little luck, I intend to have this resolved by nightfall." Wash turned back to his lieutenant. "Don't do anything to stir up more trouble today. If I'm not back by morning, you have permission to tear that barricade apart and get yourselves free of this town."

"May I join you?" Baron Jathurn requested. "I have no desire to spend the day sitting in a tent."

"This won't be a peaceful ride." Wash motioned to his sword.

The baron laughed. "Good, your country so far has seemed tame by the standards of its reputation."

"Very well! Let us go and find us some sport!" Wash yelled, putting spurs to his horse's flank. He was too focused on his pursuit to note the motion behind him, but soon enough Jathurn and his man with two Lendouri armsmen were matching strides with Sir Washburn's destrier. The five riders made good speed on the muddied road traveling south.

Though the weather had drizzled most of the morning, it had not washed away the deep impressions of fast-moving horses south of Abbeyford. Skillful tracking was not required, even after the trail led off the road and over unplowed fields and small thickets. The trail of hoof prints ended at a shallow creek, but with the water churned into mud, it wasn't hard to tell which direction the riders had gone, and fairly recently too. Given, of course that the tracts they followed were indeed the magistrate's men on the path of the royal courier whom they sought. Wash hoped the lone rider had given these hunters the slip. Yet if he had done so, the Knight Captain knew he might not retrieve what he needed in time to make a difference.

They were two hours out of Abbeyford when they caught a whiff of wood smoke in the midst of the trees lining the creek. They found a cart road near the stream which traversed the tree line; it led toward a rain-drenched clearing. As the riders came nearer, they sighted a farm with a few acres of bare field awaiting the spring planting. There was a cottage of modest size, with stone walls and a thatched roof; a column of smoke lazily rose up from a cleft in the back wall. A wooden structure stood behind the house; chickens and sheep wandered freely in and out of the barn door. The oddity in this peaceful setting was the gathering of nine horses tied together before the cottage's main door. Certainly the barn was not big enough to stable that many horses. Neither a man nor a child could be seen about, and the cottage held no windows to betray what was happening inside.

The Knight Captain had his men halt at the edge of the trees. He motioned his two armsmen to ride around to the barn. To Jathurn and his man, Castor, he indicated that they should tie their steeds in the shadows of the brush and walk from there. With a keen eye on the door, they paced the hundred steps across the open field. Still, no motion of the door indicated they'd been seen. The three slipped between the horses and examined their gear. Rough woven blankets under poor leather saddles held emblems of the Abbeyford guards. All but one horse. This destrier's saddle was of considerable better quality than the rest, proving that the magistrate's men had run someone to ground. 

On inspection, under the lather of damp salty sweat, the quality bay had the mark of Cassan on his hip, an emblem not often seen this far south. The destrier held one leg off the ground with a gash across the fetlock and blood crusted on the hoof—a possible injury from running along the creek's rocky bottom. A second splash of blood was found smeared across the steed's neck. A quick inspection proved this blood not to be from the horse; likely it belonged to the rider who'd been pulled from his seat. No saddle bags were seen, only cut leather thongs where the bags should have been. The torn pennant of a messenger out of Rhemuth was found tucked under the saddle. Washburn's frown deepened. He motioned toward the cottage door. They needed to be quick if surprise was to remain their advantage. Swords at the ready, the three surrounded the door.

"Hold him! Damn you!" yelled a rough voice from within. A clamor of noise, then a curse. "You want to be dead? Slit your throat I will, if you try that again!" Sounds of the struggle continued.

The Knight Captain wasted no more time. He shoved the door open and charged in. At the far side of the room, a man strung up by his wrists from the rafters was kicking out at his assailants. Two men were struggling to hold him as a third man was searching him like robbers frisking a corpse. Only this man was not dead, not yet! Although he looked to be not far from getting himself in that condition.

With all eyes on the struggle, none of the Abbeyford guards reacted to the intruding new sound, save one. Wash was on this man even as he turned; he never got a chance to raise up his weapon. In an instant the guard crumbled from the flat of Wash's sword smacking the back of his neck below his skullcap. Jathurn caught the man's sword before it banged against the stone, and then he pressed his palm over the man's eyes to be assured the guard would stay unconscious through the chaos about to erupt.

The next two men turned at the commotion, meeting the black knight's stern gaze. With little hesitation, they lunged at Wash, thinking their numbers an advantage. Seven to three—were these intruders fools? The Knight Captain proved the error of that thought. With a swift cut and twist, one man lost his sword and a bit of his hand. The other was shoved aside only to run into Jathurn's blade. Jathurn shook his head at the man's stupidity.

The five men left standing belatedly turned and took a fierce stance to defend what they'd hunted down. Their prey, newly freed from the frisking, cursed his attackers, spitting out a bloody mouthful as he did so. This only won him a punch low in the gut and left him groaning as he swung from the rope that strung him just above the floor.

"This business is none of your business!" growled the biggest man standing before his captive.

"That man is my business. King's business. You're Doggin, I presume. In the name of the King, I demand that you let that man go," the Knight Captain ordered.

"I see no King! I've got my own orders and they don't come from you! You want this man? I'll give you a deal— when I get what I need, I'll leave you his bones and his gold, all yours— when I'm done!" The big man tossed a satchel of gold at Jathurn's feet, thinking him the best dressed and therefore the most likely to take the bribe.

The baron raised his eyes at the two coins that spilled from the laden coin purse which slid across the floor. "I'm not here for gold, but I'll take these and return them to their rightful owner." The baron wrapped his sword point over the purse strings and flipped it up into his hand. A ruffian thought to take advantage of the nobleman's distraction. His poor judgment was met with a strong block and a swift cut. Then Castor intervened and shoved the man away from his liege lord. With one disarming strike the man, bloodied, was added to the three wounded in the corner.

Washburn stepped closer, causing the four remaining Abbeyford guards to step back. Now they were in the reach of the beaten man swinging from the rafter. The royal messenger had been twisting and churning within his binds. Realizing that Doggin's back was finally near enough, the captured man kicked out and managed a blow that unsettled the big man's balance. Unfortunately, the force sent the messenger into a chaotic spin.

Wash used the advantage. He lunged, gouging a chunk out of Doggin's sword, but three other swords blocked him from doing more. As one, they shoved their sword points where Washburn had been standing. The knight was lighter on his feet than he seemed. He danced aside, sweeping a table over to bring an end to their barrage.

"Wash, is't you?" yelled the courier as he swung from tied wrists. His words were pronounced in a thick border brogue. Recognition brought a thin smile to one side of his face, the side unbloodied. As he twisted again, trying to turn to face Wash, he called, "Ye're a hearty sight f'r sore eyes." At least that is what he tried to say through swollen lips. His tunic was slashed, exposing rent chainmail and blood oozing from beneath. Wash stared for a moment and couldn't believe who he saw.

"Roger?" Wash yelled, rage swelling in his chest. Here was a friend, a young man who'd recently squired for Muir, a nobleman from the north. "What in God's name are you doing here?" Moving closer, Wash's next attack proved his anger was up; the guard before him went down without so much as a sound.

"The King thought me the best man to deliver you a letter," Roger called back, while kicking outward in the hopes that someone would fall within his reach.

Doggin and one other leaped at Washburn. The third man turned toward the easier target, the nobleman in his fine clothes. Jathurn had turned away to force back a man rising from the floor. He did not see the third man who was planning a killing blow. "Jathurn!" Wash yelled from across the room. In that instant the baron's back was open, but then Castor was there blocking the deadly attack. Feeling the concussion of blade striking blade, Jathurn ducked and rolled to the ground. He then spun on his knees only to see Castor weaken under a succession of blows. The attacking third man didn't see Jathurn stand. Almost stealth-like the Deryni Lord came up behind the attacker, landing a fierce blow upside the man's head with the hilt of his sword. The attacker crumpled to the floor beside the baron's best man, who'd been forced to one knee. Jathurn took a moment to help Castor recover his footing, while pointing his sword in warning at the rest of the downed guards, threatening them to stay where they lay.

Wash drew the last two away from Roger and Jathurn, toward the back of the room. Two swords against one. The one never faltered; only the low ceiling beams and the furniture gave reason for concern. It seemed a concern that the Abbeyford guards appeared to ignore. Abusing this flaw, Wash stepped purposely under a rafter. His opponent swung high over his head. His whole body shook as the blade embedded itself deep within the roughhewn beam.

The black knight gave a wicked grin, teasing the big man to do the same. Doggin made an angry growl and swung his sword low and wide. Wash countered with a solid strike that shattered the big man's blade and sent steel skittering over the floor. For a moment the sound stunned those in the room. In fierce desperation, Doggin attacked with his halved, jagged blade, counting on his strength and weight to defeat his enemy. Wash jumped back, shoving aside two chairs. Space was getting tight in the low-ceilinged back corner of the room. Time had come to end this game.

Like a stag ramming his antlers at his opponent, the knight captain pushed off the wall, his sword arched across the broken weapon, severing it from the big man's grasp. A second blow bit into Doggin's shielding arm likely saving the man from Wash's deadly anger. With a yell of pain, the Abbeyford leader fell back. Hounded by the black knight, he skittered backward along the floor, only to come upon Castor's boots. The owner of those boots, kicked the big man in the head, sending Doggin reeling under Roger's feet. Roger's spurred boot slammed the man in the shoulder, justly returning the wounds he had received at this man's hands. But as Doggin writhed and groaned, his eyes widened at a glimpse of parchment protruding from Roger's boot-top. Too quickly, the big Abbeyford guard seized Roger's leg, hauled himself up, and pulled the letter free from its hiding place.

"Stop him!" growled Roger, instantly enraged.

Jathurn was the first to realize the trouble. He ran for the door where the Abbeyford guard had just made his escape. Unable to follow, Washburn growled, "We're done!" at the last guard who was just reaching for a fallen friend's sword. Wash stomped his boot-heel upon the sword. His anger flared. Had he just lost his prize? With barely held restraint, he stopped his own sword just short of the man's throat. "Don't tempt me!" he snarled. Sir Washburn blazed his crimson aura, giving full warning that he was in control. Wisely, the guard backed away, and the wounded men on the floor cowered from the proof that a Deryni lord had them defeated.

Concern for his friend kept Wash from following the others outside. He turned to help the youth who was still swinging from the rope around his wrists. All too recently this son of a border-clan chieftain had squired for his brother during the battle at Rengarth. At the height of the battle, even as King Jasher was cut down, Muir's squire had succeed in getting a warning message through to Prince Cluim, a message that alerted the prince of hidden enemy on their flank, reducing that surprise and giving time for Washburn and his men to come to the prince's defense. Prince Cluim not only survived the attack, but continued on to defeated the Torenthi army. Months later, the newly crowned King Cluim recognized the young man's heroic deed. He requested Roger to become his personal squire. An honor that not only the boy's father but his maternal grandfather accepted with pride.

This royal squire, at the moment however, was feeling worthless in his latest task. He grimaced as he slurred the words, "I failed you."

Reaching over Roger's head, Wash cut the rope from the beam. He kept the young man from stumbling forward when his feet hit the ground. Pulling a chair over and righting a table, Wash sat his friend down, and helped him free his hands from the rope.

"Not your best day, is it?" Wash remarked while surveying the mess and being sure that Castor kept the wounded where they lay.

"Not when I fail a royal assignment!" Roger declared with a look of defeat. His left eye was swollen shut, the other was downcast and would not meet Washburn's gaze.

Sensing the commotion outside, which Roger's limited abilities could not discern, Wash grinned back at the royal squire. "You haven't failed yet, good lad, I believe you're about to hand me a royal dispatch." Wash nodded toward the door as it reopened. Jathurn stepped through with a smug smile and a sealed parchment tight in his grasp. Once he'd entered, the two Lendour armsmen drug between them the beaten, barely conscious, big Abbeyford guard. They dropped Doggin on the floor in the midst of his defeated men.

The cleanup was quick. The two armsmen gathered up the weapons. They used saddle-leathers to tie the guards' hands behind their backs. The Abbeyford guard's severest wounds were bandaged. When Jathurn went looking for more cloth, he discovered the cottage's family locked in the cellar. The farmer was a bit dismayed at first; he kept out a wary eye on everyone. Once he determined the worst was over, he was quick enough to get his boys to settle the room and have his wife and daughter bring out more linen for bandages. Roger was given a better seat before the hearth, to let the farmer's wife help remove his chain mail and see to his wounds.

When everything proved to be under control, the Knight Captain returned to Roger's side with a full tankard of ale. "You, my friend, found a hard way to deliver me a letter. How was it you were the one chosen to carry it?"

"I volunteered my services," the royal squire said, clenching his teeth, as some of the ale was poured over his wound. With a grimace, Roger declared, "I'd rather drink that, if you don't mind!" He took the mug away from Wash. He didn't flinch when Wash touched his hand. He even lowered his rudimentary shields, which he had inherited from an ancestor that Roger would not name, to let the Knight Captain send energy to help reduce the pain. After that, and another swig of ale, his color returned to his face. "The King had considered the possibility of danger. He wanted someone loyal to you, with fighting skills as well as speed. I'd have been here yesterday, if I had not been ambushed outside of Nyford. It took me all day to outrace them. This morning, I should have known I would not be in the clear at the town gates. A stupid mistake on my part that I will not make again." He grimaced once more at the pain as the farmer's wife cleaned his shoulder.

"Not if you want to survive long enough to achieve knighthood." Wash laughed at the look his friend made. "Drink up, I declare you're going to live, at least through today."

Roger took another swig and then let the farmer's wife bind his shoulder. When she was done he downed the rest of the tankard, then thanked her. After a moment, Roger nodded toward Baron Jathurn. "Rumor in Rhemuth has you married. Lord Kyriell is now a brother-in-law?" He grimaced as he laughed. "How the devil did a woman capture your heart so soon after the war?"

"Not the devil, my friend. An angel—an angel from up high. Perhaps the day will come when you'll discover the same."

"I'm afraid I'm already spoken for. My parents ensured my betrothal the day that they heard I'd survived Rengarth. I marry on my twenty-first birthday." The young man laughed at the Knight Captain's look of dismay. "That's five years from now! Don't worry, she is a pretty lass. Made of money, she is, since she had become heiress with the death of her brothers and her first betrothed when they fell as King Jasher fell. The family is in deep mourning right now, but they see the need to ensure their lands are well kept. I just have to keep in the King's good graces and live long enough to be that old."

"Twenty-one? That old? You insolent whelp!" Wash said with feigned offense. "It wasn't so long ago when I taught you to fight, my friend. Finding you this way today makes me think you've forgotten what I taught you. You keep on forgetting, and you won't live to be the ripe old age of twenty-one!"

"T'is this, I know," Roger slurred as he pulled away from the farmer's wife who had touched his face with a damp cloth. Wash just laughed and gestured for him to drink more ale.

"Honestly, I haven't forgotten. They caught me before I had reached the town gate, coming up behind me from the river's edge. I fought well enough against four men to get away. I thought I had lost them at the stream. That was my mistake! My horse and I had been traveling all night and now running all morning. He'd caught his legs in the rocks and I was washing out the wound. That was when they came upon me." The young man frowned. "Thank you for the rescue, otherwise I'd likely be dead." Wash nodded to the truth of that statement, but then the youth gave a laugh at his near miss. "If I don't get myself killed building my reputation with the King, then my heiress will be mine, soon enough. If I do get myself killed..." He shrugged, and then winced at the pain that motion caused.  "...I guess I wouldn't then be worthy of her earldom. Wouldn't you agree, Baron Kyriell?" Roger grinned at the baron who came toward the hearth.

"I can see your point," the Tralian nobleman agreed.

"Jathurn, let me acquaint you with Roger McLain, the son of Laird Andrew McLain and a grandson of the Duke Tammaron of Cassan. My brother had the pleasure of squiring this audacious borderer for the last two years, who rightly earned a Haldane squire's tunic just this fall. Apparently, his antics at playing royal courier are twofold, to get us this letter from his Majesty and to earn his right to better me as the Earl of Kierney someday."

"I wish you success in your future endeavors," Jathurn replied.

Roger smiled a lopsided smile, "Thanks to you, I have succeeded so far. Though how I am going to explain this, I am uncertain." He nodded to the guards tied on the floor who would not meet his gaze. They were well aware of the trouble they were in. That none of them were dead was a miracle, though a few needed better care than then they would get here. "Don't we need to get back, to make that letter worth all this trouble? I can ride, and it is time we let these good people have their farm back, don't you think?"

The knight captain soon agreed and organized the wounded Abbeyford guards to be placed on their horses and bound to their saddles. Two men were forced to ride together to give Roger a horse, as his had become too lame to move on.

"Take good care of that northern stallion's leg," Washburn said to the farmer as he handed across a writ of ownership. "He will sire you quality foals that you can sell for good coin in the years to come. Here's some coin to see him fed. You won't regret our coming or our going, I'm thinking."

With that, Wash led the way back to Abbeyford, his men guarding the eight defeated magistrate's men. They reached the gates after sundown. The magistrate and the abbot frowned deeply when they saw the Lendour Knight Captain use the captured guards as hostages to force the gatekeeper to open the gates. Wash wasted no time in presenting his royally sealed letter to the abbot before the gathering town folk. Accusing these men of assaulting His Majesty's courier, the knight captain had the guards arrested. He continued to threaten Royal displeasure upon the monastery, stating the King would soon learn just who ordered these men to waylay a royal dispatch. The abbot backed off from the magistrate and was quick to denounce him and his guards for acting out their own greedy scheme, against the advice of the Church. He ordered the magistrate locked up with his men in their own cells until a trial for their crimes could be arranged by Steward Barlum of the Duchy of Haldane. Refuting any association with the magistrate, Abbot Darby quickly declared all goods that were being held within the protective walls of the monastery to be returned to their rightful owners, including Lendour's grain. By morning's first light, the barricade was down and the Lendour grain was on the ferry crossing the river to the north road. 

Royal squire Roger McLain, after a good night's sleep under the care of Baroness Elzia, took his leave of the Knight Captain and joined Sir Dillon with most of the Lendouri armsmen to go north. Wash handed the royal squire a long letter addressed to the King, giving a full account of the events that had transpired and praising the royal squire for his bravery. The letter was sure to raise the King's ire. In truth, however, Wash had doubts if the new King had yet gained enough influence with the archbishop to force Abbot Darby to face an ecclesiastical court. The abbot's claim of innocence was most certainly false, but the use of Truth-Reading to prove it would only further harm the tenuous relations between Deryni and the Church. Wash knew better than to pursue the matter further. No one had died and he had achieved his goal. That was good enough for now. Meanwhile he still had the Tralian party to escort south to Corwyn. Wash kept Robby and six men with him to see them safely to Castle Coroth, where they arrived two days later.


Healer's Inheritance chapter 9.5- The Duchy of Corwyn (A half chapter added to the story to show a little of Gwynedd's history. Laurna 3/20/215)

The month of December was at an end. The next dawn would see a new month and a new year. A new year that the Deryni knight hoped would bring forth a better future for his kind. Washburn was far from home and far from the ones he loved, but he still had the guardianship of family to tend to. Until the change of the tide on the morrow, he had Baron Jathurn and Dowager Baroness Elzia under his protection. Not that they needed protecting from the Duke of Corwyn. To be sure, Tralia and Corwyn were on good terms; a far more solid relationship than that which Lendour and Corwyn had only recently begun to share. The duchy and the sovereign principality had a history of collaboration when it came to monitoring the Twin River deltas and the traffic that passed through their mutual ports. Each also, had a sizable fleet of vessels, which by treaty maintained trade across the Southern Sea. The earldom of Lendour, on the other hand, had only come to befriend the duchy in the last year. War was often a catalyst for the formation of new bonds. Therefore, it was with open arms that the Duke of Corwyn greeted his neighbors from both old and new alliances into the great hall of Coroth Castle.

After the formalities of greeting, Duke Jernian invited his guests into his private solar. Here his duchess was seated with her back to the warmth of the sun that shone brightly after the passing of the last storm. The light gleamed through the windows and glistened off the expanse of the sea seen beyond the castle walls. Duchess Procida, daughter of Reynard IV Duc du Joux of the house of Buyenne-Furstan, was a stunning lady. Her straw-colored hair hung in twists of green ribbons to the floor, and her soft round face was pale in the sunlight. Where Duke Jernian was a year or two younger than Wash, the Lendour knight guessed that her grace was a year or two older than his own lady. At her grace's feet, her son, barely a toddler, sat in a midst of six small puppies with coats of red and white, and black and white with tan markings, who all seemed to joyfully frolic around the boys feet and legs. The puppies' mother, a pretty tri color, slept in the sunlight at the duchess side. The little dog seemed at ease with the small child and his playing with her brood.

"Welcome to my home Baron Kyriell, and most welcome to you, your Highness von Horthy," the duchess said in greeting to Jathurn and Lady Elzia. Wash was surprised that the duchess deferred to the dowager Baroness's rank of birth. "And I presume this knight in you presence is the renowned Captain of Cynfyn. I have heard much about you in these past months, good Sir."

"Duchess Procida," Washburn greeted with a respectful bow, "and Lord Stiofan. I hope what you have heard is favorable. May I say what a handsome young man you have at your feet? I was there on the field this last spring when his grace received the news of his son's birth. It is my honor to meet you both."

Procida tilted her head toward her guest. "Sir Washburn, I am glad Corwyn and Lendour were able to fight side by side. Our families have much to recommend to each other. As to the day of Stiofan's birth, I am told Lord Jernian did a dance when he got the news. As I have not been able to imagine my lord performing in such a manner, perhaps you can convince me that it was so?"

Wash gave a light laugh at the duke's embarrassment, "I can assure you that such a tale is nothing but the truth. A heartening little jig, as I recall."

Jathurn raised his brow in mirth and spoke up before Duke Jernian could protest. "That, my lady, would indeed be a father's prerogative. I dare say, I did much the same last year when my son was born."

"And you, Sir Washburn, will likely do the same when your wife grants you a son." The duke clasped the baron's brother-in-law on the shoulder, well aware of the knight's new marriage from stories that were told when Jathurn and Elzia arrived on his shores a month ago.

Lady Elzia was quick to bend down to the small puppies and lift one up from the litter. "I know who would love to have you," she said, brushing the little black and white face next to her own.

"When the time comes, though it may ruin my reputation as a staunch commander, I too will promise to do a little jig," replied the knight in black. Both men laughed and clapped the shoulder of the Knight Captain of Lendour.

The duke was ever gracious to his guests. He put forth an extravagant dinner feast, the last to be had before the great feast of Twelfth Night. So it wasn't the duke's appetite nor the quality of entertainment that caused Duke Jernian's mood to turn sour as the night progressed. Wash was well aware that his news from the road had not been taken lightly. During dinner, as Wash had told the story of his difficulty with the magistrate of Abbeyford and with the abbot of New Argoed, the Deryni Duke of Corwyn grew hauntingly serious. Here was a political difficulty that could stir up trouble for Corwyn in the future.

During the winter the year before, in the lull of the war with Torenth, King Jasher had approached Duke Jernian with an offer of alliance between his independent Duchy of Corwyn and the Kingdom of Gwynedd. Imer II, Pretender of Gwynedd, had fortified his defenses in his stronghold at Rengarth. King Jasher was preparing to route the enemy from his lands and he wanted to be sure the pretender would not escape south into Corwyn. Duke Jernian was thusly forced into a bad position; either he must openly invite Imer into his land, become besieged by the Pretender's greater army when it raced south, or ally himself with Gwynedd to assault the Pretender in his palace hideaway ending Imer's reign of destruction. King Jasher had forced the issue; choose Torenth or choose Gwynedd, Corwyn could no longer stand independent between the two greater warring kingdoms. Corwyn allied itself with Gwynedd and together on the thirtieth day of May, the two armies united to besiege Imer at Rengarth.

Both Muir and Wash were well aware that if the treaty had failed, Gwynedd would still be at war and Torenth might just have gained Corwyn for its own, leaving Lendour hard pressed to hold Gwynedd's eastern borders. But the alliance was a success. On the second of July, the constant barrage from Gwynedd's siege engines had managed a breach in Rengarth's Southern wall. Many events during the onslaught of the day's battle brought about great change: In the morning hours, King Jasher was mortally wounded; the king's last dying request was to his Deryni Earl, which both surprised Lord Muir and gave him new understanding of the Kingship he loyally protected; that same earl's squire, along with his army's commander, discovered and destroyed the enemies hidden northern flank saving the life of the crown prince and gaining the city of Rengarth; the crown prince survived and the army hailed him as Gwynedd's new King; in a lull of the battle at noon, Lord Muir presented his new King with the dying King's last wish; the Ring of Fire and the Eye of Rom were present to King Cluim and the power of Kingship was passed down to his Majesty; a power that would be required to win the day. On that afternoon, Duke Jernian proved his loyalty to his new kingdom. He trapped the Pretender in his palace and called for others to help route him out. King Cluim and Lord Muir joined the duke in what became a private confrontation with Imer and his Deryni aides on the roof of Rengarth's Palace. Few would know of the battle that commenced; a battle of powers with three men on each side. Powers of the west overwhelmed the abilities of the east. As a last ditch effort, Imer stole the life force of his aides and infused it with his own to defeat Gwynedd's new King. His effort failed. The three of the west turned his energy back onto him and pushed him to the precipice of the tower wall. Rather than be destroyed by his enemy, Imer leapt from the great height, his body shattering on the pavers before the King's army at the tower's feet.

The price of victory had not been cheap. In the three year war, Gwynedd had lost two kings, and Corwyn had lost its autonomy. The last independent half of the ancient Kingdom of Mooryn, had become annexed into the greatest of the Eleven Kingdoms. The beneficial alliance forged during a time of war, was proving to be far more complicated for Corwyn's policies now that peace had crossed the land. Much of the problem stemmed from the House of Corwyn being openly Deryni, and how this Deryni Duchy was to handle its daily business with the prejudices of the human population of Gwynedd.

"So, now I have to get permission from the King to sell my goods?" The Duke of Corwyn said with a scowl. The dinner had ended and the men had retired to the withdrawing room at the back of the main hall. The musicians could be heard playing a lively tune beyond the door.

"I can assure you, King Cluim does not hold to the Statutes of Ramos." Sir Washburn proclaimed, although his words failed to ease the duke's temper. Nonetheless, he continued to try. "He does not see the necessity of it. The few known Deryni under his rule are faithful and loyal to him, as you yourself have proven to be. It is the Church," Washburn's voice turned harsh, "which has pushed the issue, with its narrow minded point of view and its historical antipathy toward our kind. If my men had stayed clear of the town and stuck to the road, as I had requested, I am sure the matter would have been avoided altogether."

"The turning of the weather is not the fault of you men, Sir Washburn, and neither is the acceptance of shelter where it is offered. It is a customary law to offer hospitality with the promise of safety for both the traveler and the host. If this basic Christian ethic is being abused...." The duke smacked the corner of his desk and walked across to the map tapestry of old Mooryn which hung along the wall. He ran his finger along the line that had until recently separated his duchy from his western neighboring kingdom. "I tied myself to Gwynedd because I had been led to believe that the tide of hate was ebbing, and that men like us could prove our worth for the greater good of all mankind. That if we showed ourselves to be loyal, strong, and faithful, we could change the devastation of the past seventy years. Now, what you tell me, proves that we are sticking our necks out only to get our heads lopped off."

"Your grace, it is nowhere near that! I promise you. Muir and I are on a positive standing with the King. He is only newly crowned and may not have the authority— yet— to stamp down the aggressiveness of the Church, but I assure you, he has the capability of becoming a great King. With the backing of Lendour and now Corwyn, we will see changes in our lifetime."

The duke turned and nodded in agreement with the knight from Lendour. "If it weren't for Lendour's steadfastness in both its loyalties to our kind and to our king, I might not have been so inclined to join the west rather than the east. I value the Cynfyn name and admire your family for neither losing to, nor hiding from, the prejudices of men. Would that other families had survived and held out as Cynfyn has. There are so few of us left in the west. I can count on my hands the number that I know to be of the blood."

"There are more of us than you may be aware of, your grace. Lendour is a wilderness of many hidden secrets," the Knight Captain replied.

Baron Jathurn looked into the goblet he'd brought with him from the dinner table, which was now empty. The three men were alone in the withdrawing room, without a page to refill it. "Lendour is not the only place with secrets. There are other secrets hidden within Gwynedd.  May I?" he asked, as he stepped toward the table with a fresh decanter of red wine. He held the attention of both men as he poured himself half a glass and sampled a taste of the wine. "This is an exceptional vintage of Fianna. My compliments."

"My ship captains know how to trade for the best," the duke commented. "You mention secrets, my dear baron. For a bottle of my best wine, what secrets would you be willing to trade?"

"Do not tempt me," the baron laughed. "Your wine is of the very best. But even for that, I am not able to share most secrets. There is one, however, that I am willingly to divulge. I do so, not for your wine, but because you, Lord Washburn are family, and you, Lord Jernian are now in a position to lend support to those who could use it. Not all my relatives fled Gwynedd. A few have stayed behind. Some changed their names and their identities, and some married into good families."

"Human families?" the duke said with some disdain. "Half-breeds don't interest me."

"Some of them should!" the baron shot back fiercely. Jathurn waved the two other men closer, feeling the need for discretion in what he would say next. "The Duchy of Cassan is changing its perception do to the efforts of a few "half-breeds". Cousins of mine, actually, who are fighting the battle from the inside."

Wash considered what he knew of Cassan. Indeed, Deryni blood had been added into the family line. Squire Roger was proof, but he did not know from how far back the talent led.

Duke Jernian, on the other hand, was offended by even the name of that highland duchy, which was as large as his own, but on the opposite corners of the kingdom. "Cassan?" Jernian queried in the midst of grimacing with disgust. "Why would Cassan open its line to Deryni? Are they not the bane of half our troubles?"

"Let me preface this by saying that the Duchy of Cassan is no longer swayed by men such as the duke's grandfather, Rhun the Ruthless! The Earl of Sheele indeed! " Jathurn practically spat the name. "His atrocities to our kind are too numerous to count. His theft of my great grandfather's estate of Sheele was the least of them! Lord save us from men like that. And far to many have followed his hate and greed. The horrid fire of my father's house is proof of that. So much loss!" Jathurn shook his head, his personal loss a dozen years back was still keenly felt. "My father had other family, aunts mostly, who hid themselves in the northern highlands. I doubt it was by design, but their children and their children's children have succeeded in bringing a subtle change to a house that was known for hunting Deryni to our near extinction."

"Change? What kind of change?" Wash inquired. "Are we talking about Muir's squire, Roger McLain? He may earn Keirney by a good marriage, but unless there is a great upset, he will never inherit Cassan."

"Not McLain, exactly. Although, he appears to be a bright young man. One which I thank you for introducing to me. Did you know, we are cousins, he and I, after a fashion? Did you ever question him about where those shields of his came from?"

"I did, and the answer was from a lady who was full Deryni a few generations back, but he would say no more on which lady that was. I have not heard of any Deryni in the McLain or Cassan family trees. I am left to wonder at a secret that has been hidden so well."

"It is a secret known to my family, but not to outsiders. Cynfyn as well as Corwyn have been too prominent as known Deryni families for those who wish to remain hidden to be associated with. Just being seen with a known Deryni leads to suspicion. Your young Roger has had to walk a fine line to keep from being discovered, especially now that he is under the service of your King. I hope he knows that and tredds with care."

"I am certain he will manage," Washburn said confidently.  "So an aunt of yours married into Cassan? That is commendable and very dangerous. I wonder who she is. Surely, you don't mean Duke Tammaron's mother, and her old family claim to the name von Horthy? It would be impossible for her to be Deryni, not with a father like Rhun the Ruthless."

"You're talking about Lady Adelicia of Horthness?" Jathurn said the name with disdain. "She was in no way related to my uncle, the Hort of Orsal. No matter how many generations removed they claim! That story is a sham...! I don't even think they realize the von Horthy's are  Deryni."

Washburn raised a brow, taken back by what was obviously an old family wound. "Indeed? On that score, I had wondered."

Jernian lifted the decanter of wine and filled his guest's goblets. "Do you intend to tell us how this McLain has shields and why change has come to Cassan, or do we have to continue to guess." The Duke filled his own goblet, swirled the wine within, and then took in a deep breath. "970, a very fine year for Fianna. I do have a few bottles of it in my cellar," he proclaimed as a bribe.

"You drive a hard bargain," the baron said with his own sip of the precious wine. "For one bottle of wine, I will give you one name. However, I expect you to honor the person I name and to help protect her and her children and her children's children in the years to come."

"The queen is a daughter of the Duke of Cassan, is she not?" Jernian interjected.

"Aye, she is," was all Baron Jathurn would say.

Jernian whistled at the ramifications of such a highly placed human family having hidden Deryni blood lines. "Sir Washburn, you are looking thoughtful. You have an idea who the lady is?"

"My recent marriage has caused me to do some sleuthing into her family line. That information has overlapped with some of what I know of the courtiers of Rhemuth. Yes, I believe I have figured it out. But it is not my secret to tell."

"Your grace," Jathurn said, gaining the attention of both men. "Until this year, you have had little reason to closely examine the human nobility of Gwynedd. I would not expect you to know the family history of the current Duchess of Cassan. There are only a handful of people who know the truth. The Duchess Tiphane is a daughter of the honorable Lady Rhysel Ainselle, who was the sister of my father's father?"

The duke gave a surprised look. "Wait! I know for a fact that old Lord Ainselle was human. Are you saying that the current lord of Argoed, I cannot recall his name, has Deryni blood?"

The baron smiled, but his gaze was serious as he watch Jernain's reaction. "Lord Javyl, is the current Lord of Argeod. He inherited the title from his grandfather, old Lord Ainselle. Javyl may appear to be human by hiding behind his father's ancestry, but he has a bit of his mother's training inside that head of his. Old Ainselle's son Robert married Rhysel Ainselle Thuryn, a daughter of Lord Rhys Thuryn. Do I have to remind you that Robert had one son, Javyl, but that he also had two daughters by the Deyni Lady Rhysel? One of those daughters is the current Duchess of Cassan, the Lady Tiphane."

Jernian gave an appreciative whistled. "A granddaughter of the infamous Camber of Culdi hides her heritage by marrying a simple knight and births half-breeds to infiltrate the nobles of Gwynedd. One of those half-breeds just happens to marry into the duchy of Cassan! That is a coup, I must say. Although, I don't approve. A waste of pure blood, if you ask me."

"I do not think Saint Camber would agree with you." Jathurn said a little sharply. "May I remind you, your grace, that Saint Camber is also my great grandfather. I..." Jathurn let slip to Wash a mental image of the Christmas Mass from just days ago, when the saint's apparition had appeared before them. His awe of that moment sifted through the link. "We all do what we can to help our people. My father was separated from my aunts at a young age. He fled to Tralia where he meet my mother. My aunts and my great aunts may not have had the luxury of escaping. I know one great aunt married into a hidden Deryni family, but how were the other's to find Deryni husbands? In Gwynedd there were very few to have survived the harrowing." All three men instinctively said their own little prayer for the mention of the horrors of seventy years ago. "I realize most fathers of good training would rather see their progeny cloistered off within a convent rather than have them married off to humans, but change has to come from somewhere. Where better than in the rearing of children--yes half-breed children-- and teaching them at a very young age to understand the culture of both heritages and to learn tolerance instead of fear."

The duke shook his head in disagreement. "It is a commendable effort. But it will backlash on all our kind. One wrong move from these barely trained individuals and we will have in our lifetime what brought down our people during the harrowing. Especially for those living within Gwynedd. Hate and fear is very hard to overcome. If these hidden half-breeds had no training at all, then at least there is little they can do. But to give them some inkling of who they are, with just a pittance of training is like lightning on the verge of striking!"

"That lightning strike may not come just from half breeds, your grace." Wash said with a frown. "I knew a man who did not know his full Deryni heritage, but others discovered it and twisted his fears and ignorance to induce him to kill. Ignorance is far more dangerous than knowledge. Had Sir Thomas known of his blood lines, I am certain he never would have done what he did. His actions have persuaded me of the importance of seeing full and partly-blooded Deryni properly educated, so that they may learn the responsibilities to which their inheritance demands. Young McLain being squired in Lendour was a good first step. Muir has been a good influence on that boy. I know he will gladly take on another."

"Thank you," replied Jathurn. "and your grace? Now that you are a part of Gwynedd, members of Cassan may come to you in secret. If you will, in subtle ways, lend them your support, I think you will gain solid alliances at Rhemuth Court."

"Aye, Lord Kyriell, I will weigh each request on an individual basis. If I find them worthy, I will help them. You offer intrigue, I dare say! Rhemuth court must be writhe with it. And you Sir Washburn, lived upfront in the midst of it and have done well."

"I stood by the side of the royal house for many years. The one thing it has taught me is that court is a dangerous place if you take a misstep. Believe me when I say, I have learned to think through every action and  take heed of all consequences before I make a move.  I consider that and Loyalty to be the best part of me that I can offer my people and my Kingdom. That is the wisdom I hope to pass on to others of our blood."

"Which is why you are the Commander that you are, and why I trusted you with my army at the gates of Rengarth. On the feast of Easter, I intend to present my family at court. I would very much appreciate it if Lendour were there as well. Perhaps then, you can introduce me to your new wife's cousins from Cassan?"

"It would be my honor, your grace." The Lendour Knight Captain bowed his head. "With Lendour, Cassan, and the strong backing of Corwyn, I have hope that the future for our people is moving forward."

The look on Duke Jernian's face was measured. He tipped his goblet up, finishing off his wine and proclaimed, "I will trust that the bond between Lendour, Tralia, and Corwyn will hold true and bring us a good future. That gentleman I will count on. We shall see what alliances can be made with Cassan."

"Then, I will look forward to Rhemuth's spring court," Sir Washburn replied. He gave a nod and drank heartily from his glass of fine Fianna wine. The duke had great taste in wine.


With the change of the tide on the first morning of the New Year, Sir Washburn had reason to be proud to be who he was. He gave a warm farewell to his bride's mother and her brother, promising to be the best husband his fair Jessamyn could desire. He stood on the quay until the galley had rowed out beyond the harbor and her sails were set to make the crossing toward Orsalia's winter palace in Var Adony. Before he returned to the road for home, the Duchess of Corwyn had a delightful present for him to give to his beloved new bride, who longingly—he hoped since he could never catch her asleep— waited for him to return.

Next Chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1378.0.html
May your horses have wings and fly!


Lovely treat. You had me worried for a minute with that ferryman. Do you know the Chris de Burgh song "don't pay the ferryman"? It is appropriately sinister and it was going through my head all the time.   
Great to meet Roger and glad to know he knows the proper use of ale.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


LOL Revanne, I love that song. I only managed to give my post one last read through to be sure I had it all correct, when I see your comment, already!  So funny! Well, a good morning to you, but now I think it is time I found my bed. See you in the morning, ummm... My morning.  ;D
May your horses have wings and fly!


I usually get a first read. I'm guessing you're behind Eastern time? I am sitting on a train to London playing with my new Tablet. Sleep tight.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


Laurna lives on the completely opposite side of the US from the Eastern time zone, plus as far as I can tell, she keeps wild and crazy hours.    :D

I wish I were sitting on a train to London! Then again, any train traveling to London from Alabama would result in me getting quite wet, so never mind!
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Very good chapter and posting it just as I was going into fanfic withdrawal was a treat.   :)

Interesting to see Wash almost give in to temptation to use his powers - how tempting that would be under the circumstances.  I'm afraid I would have blasted Doggin on the spot, which certainly would not have helped Deryni/human relations.

But would have felt really good.  ;D
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


I quite like young Roger McLain, and hope he eventually enjoyed a loving marriage with his heiress bride before the events in War of Three Kings. . . dagnabbit Drakensis, I think I'm going to cry now! the fateful events a generation or so later. 
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Good morning, and a very fine morning it is! I do love posting fanfic, all-be-it nerve-racking, but enjoyable none-the-less. More people should try it.

Revanne,  a year ago I really wanted to introduce Roger McLain into my timeline. I think of this young McLain as a cross between Dhugal and a young Jared with that wild border attitude and a sense of responsibility. He is not a direct heir to Cassan, but he does have an important future as the Earl of Kierney. He is a pivotal member of the house of McLain making them a great family to be reckoned with in Gwynedd. And, of course, he is Jared McLain's and Kenneth Morgan's great grandfather. I originally had Roger knighted after Rengarth, but Evie properly pointed out that at 16, he was a bit young for the accolade. So he easily reverted back to an enthusiastic if a little bit reckless squire. I look forward to seeing what else he might do as he grows into his maturity.

Jerusha, you don't know just how tempted Wash was to use his powers on more than just the ferryman. Oh, the trouble he might have caused if he had not gotten that letter. Fortune was on his side and his responsibilities took precedence. I have to admit I had a lot of fun playing with all sorts of outcomes before this chapter was completed. I figured we needed a spark of action in this romantic tale.

Morning Evie. Your the Best. One more chapter, then let us see who else has a story to tell.

Eek Evie you posted while I was writing this. Dang! I do have to read the War of the three kings. I think I will cry without even reading it.
May your horses have wings and fly!


I finally got caught up on this one.

The last couple of paragraphs seemed a little quick to cover so much ground but they're not really the thrust of the story so it doesn't matter much.

It might give the residents of Abbeyford some idea of how little support the Church will give them if they're caught working against the Crown - no matter what may have been said beforehand.


QuoteThe last couple of paragraphs seemed a little quick to cover so much ground but they're not really the thrust of the story so it doesn't matter much.
Drakensis, thank you, for bringing up a slight on my part. I did have a sense that I was cheating Lady Elzia and Jathurn out of a scene of farewell on the docks of Coroth, but I was not sure that such a scene would add to the story, other than for a mother to assure herself that her new son- in-law would truly take care of her daughter. I had thought that might be redundant, so I let it slide.

However, I have now read your opening prologue to the War of Three Kings. (A can not wait to delve deeper into this story.) One sentence in particular caught my attention.
Quote"Precisely." Blaine glanced at the shore. "Under a strong king and barring any serious outside threat, Gwynedd has a long history of expanding where it can. That was as true under House Festil as it was under House Haldane. Cluim Haldane's decision to strip Corwyn of its autonomous status forty years ago was right about when Jolyon and his brother came of age. They were naturally concerned the next step could be predation on Gwynedd's sovereign neighbors like themselves."

I want to know more about "Cluim Haldane's decision to strip Corwyn of its autonomous status forty years ago," I definitely need to do some research and I need to read on in your story to see if you say more on the subject.(Well that but I really just need to read your story for the enjoyment of it.) With this taste of an insight, I am now wondering if a New Years Eve dinner feast (Did they have new-years eve feasts? I am wondering.) in Coroth Castle might be in line with a little political talk about this said "stripping of Corwyn's autonomy." I don't know if that would be appropriate here, but it would give me a chance to introduce the Duke of Corwyn and say farewell to Lady Elzia and Jacuth. And it would give a small lead in to the next story that is just at its inception that takes place in Rhemuth in the coming spring. So, the moment I have time, I will delve into the research and perhaps at some latter date, I will add an addendum to the end of this chapter. We shall just have to see.
May your horses have wings and fly!


I don't think anything is said in the novels but according to the CodexII, Festil I married the heiress to Mooryn and brought it under Gwynedd's suzerainity. Rather than fully incorporate Mooryn, it was divided into two duchies: Carthmoor and Corwyn. Carthmoor was given to a younger son of Festil and Corwyn to one of Festil's supporters (a cousin of his from Joux).

The Festils of Carthmoor don't appear to have thrown their support to Ariella (possibly a sign Imre had annoyed them, with his plans to build a new capital right across the Lendour from them) and Cinhil I left them alone but after his death the Regents forced them out and it was granted to Rhys Michael (the first of three Haldane Dukes of Carthmoor who later inherited the throne) and has been a Haldane holding ever since.

Corwyn had autonomous status until Imre II's invasion of Gwynedd (983-985). Exactly how this affected Jernian de Corwyn, the 5th Duke, isn't made clear anywhere. My depiction of tensions is my own invention, it's equally possible Jernian was a strong ally and wanted the annexation to secure himself against Torenth - your fic lays out Torenthi aggression towards Orsal so Corwyn may have benefited from closer support from the Haldanes.

(As an aside, the de Corwyn's seem to have managed to live out long lives for the most part: between the granting of the title and the break in male succession, six Dukes from seven generations of the family ruled for 242 years - an average of 40 years each. That's quite remarkable).


Thank you Drakensis. If you don't mind my playing with this in the future, it will help the story I am working on. I don't want to say much because it is a long way away from being written, but I do have a love for the sea. Nothing factual from the Codex, mind you. but I am already playing with marauders along the coastal regions. I have an idea of playing with Moorish invaders to add to the Torenthi problems. This could very easily lead to Gwynedd usurping Corwyn's autonomy to protect the south/eastern ports of the kingdom. I can see where Duke Jernian may have wanted to "secure himself against Torenth" but I can also see where this decision can led to your "depiction of tensions."  I wish I had a better Political mind to make the most out of this.

You do make an interesting point about Corwyn's long lived generations. That is quite remarkable, which leads one to believe not only in the health of the ducal family but in the loyalty of the people. No traitors or siblings to do each other in over titles and power. No successful rebellions to murder Deryni in Coroth Castle.

Any more insights are always welcome.
May your horses have wings and fly!


It seems entirely probably that Corwyn's autonomous status kept them out of the worst of the Gwynedd-Torenth strife.

Artorius de Corwyn (2nd Duke) died in 904 but it was months before the Haldane Restoration.

His son Taysan survived the Regents in 917, the death of Javan in 922 and the overthrow of the Great Lords in 928 (although he might have had something to say if he'd known Marek was offering Miklos the title Duke of Mooryn).

Taysan's son Arion (interesting name choice, possibly named for Arion I of Torenth who reigned at this time) survived the trials of 948.

Arion's son Jernian weathered the Great War of 983-985 with only the loss of autonomy and the War of Three Kings in 1025 to pass Corwyn to his son Stiofan.

Stiofan's sons Airlie and Taysan predeceased him but the exact circumstances I don't know. And of course there's the question of their de Courcy connections since Stiofan married Javana de Courcy.

So it seems entirely likely that the House of Corwyn kept themselves removed from the crises of the Haldanes for a century or so after the restoration. Not necessarily a bad decision given Alyce and Alaric's difficult relations with the church and royal politics.


From a British perspective I have always been struck by something of a correlation of the Dukes of Corwyn with the Dukes of Norfolk. They have remained Roman Catholic throughout yet have somehow retained their status as hereditary Earls Marshall - so the Duke at the time was responsible for arranging the Queen's Coronation confirming her amongst other things as head of the Church of England. I have often wondered how this was managed throughout the worst of the anti-Catholic persecutions. The Geography is of course quite different.

I look forward to these further stories with great interest - keep writing lady and gentleman.

Regarding my own attempts I have decided not to worry about the chapter that I just can't write and hopefully will post some more chapters in the new year
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)